Friday, March 30, 2007

Free Trade Causing a Shift in Society?
Alan Blinder is sure causing one heck of a stir in the econ blogosphere thanks to that WallStreet Journal article, but I can't imagine what for.
As far as I can tell, Blinder isn't opposing free trade; he isn't asking for temporary restrictions on it so that nations will have better time to adjust. He's just asking for a realization of some information that flies in the face of mainstream America's ideas about what our economy needs to flourish.

Most significant about that essay of his (second link) is the idea that many of jobs that we consider "safe" because they involve a high-skill level are, in fact, vulnerable because they will eventually be tradable services. The only jobs that will actually be safe are those that cannot be delivered via an internet wire (IE, personal services).
This, according to Blinder, suggests that we are at the very beginning of the "offshoring crisis." About a million service jobs have been outsourced so far. 40 million are capable of being outsourced. And we're already seeing a massive backlash against the way our society is structured...suggesting that life will be even more turbulent. Our entire society could be restructured. What's scary: just spending more on education won't help, simply because high-skilled jobs CAN and will be outsourced.

Personally, I think Blinder is a bit over-eager in his claims. The changing economy most assuredly supports greater inter-connectedness. It also, though, supports high-skilled jobs to such an extent that the colleges of the world won't be able to turn out enough of them, especially if they are gifted with a naturally high IQ. For example, even if India has gotten a smothering of new accounting jobs since 2000, wages for new college graduate accountants have gone up (partially because of Sarbanes-Oxley, passed in the wake of Enron). American l-12 education may be bad, but we still have the best college system in the world, and k-12 "education" in nations like China and India is even worse than what it is in America:

America needs a lot of work, and we're just beginning to see changes to our society, both from economic changes and from political changes:

Saying, though, that America is in grave danger sounds like alarmist talk, though.

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